Urban freight transport represents 10-18% of urban traffic but accounts for about 25% of total transport air pollution and over 20% of congestion costs. It is also a key contributor to road injuries. Although significant efforts are made in EU cities, the need for accelerating the implementation of more sustainable urban logistics solutions has become urgent.
Considering last-mile delivery trip characteristics and the large number of people exposed to traffic pollution, the optimisation of urban logistics processes can provide a significant contribution to improving overall urban mobility and fostering new cost-effective types of operations, technologies, services and business models.
In Lucca, environmental and traffic problems related to commercial fleets are intensified in the historic area by a dense grid of narrow streets and by additional constraints resulting from the presence of historical buildings, monuments and pedestrian flows for visiting tourists. These conditions are also present in the cities of Stockholm (Sweden) and Zadar (Croatia).
The goal of the LIFE ASPIRE project was the implementation of an integrated set of measures (regulatory, organisational, operational and technological), extending those previously implemented in Lucca, to achieve higher standards of energy efficiency and urban air quality. LIFE ASPIRE planned to introduce a ‘credit-based’ access policy to the city, using a system that applies flexible road pricing criteria to transport operators. The main innovation would be the implementation of a policy that rewards or penalises transport operators based on different factors, such as vehicle emissions, duration of stay, trip frequency and the utilisation of time slots or new logistics services. The project would adopt a Logistics Credit Management Platform (LOCMAP), which would manage two new logistics services: Load/Unload Parking Lots and Cargo-bike Sharing. LOCMAP would also integrate with the existing access control system, enhanced with RFID technology, to control the entrance and exit of commercial vehicles in the Limited Traffic Zone (LTZ). In this way, LOCMAP would reward cleaner vehicles with high credit points. The potential of replicability and transferability of the credit-based access control policy would be verified in Stockholm (Sweden) and Zadar (Croatia), taking into account local contexts.
LIFE ASPIRE addressed a fundamental problem with a clear European dimension: the development of sustainable freight distribution in urban areas. The competitiveness of cities is undermined when quality of life is eroded, environmental damage is caused, and travel delays and costs rise. The project therefore would address a range of EU policies, including the Global Agreement on Climate Changes (Paris Agreement) with regard to sustainable freight transport in urban areas; Directive 2008/50/EC on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe regarding noise reduction and improvements in urban air quality; and the Communication ‘A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility’ [COM(2016) 501].
The project LIFE ASPIRE carried out a range measures in Lucca to improve energy-efficiency standards and urban air quality. Specifically, the project introduced a flexible, credit-based system of applying road charges for transport operators that considers a range of factors such as emissions, travel frequency and the use of cargo bike stations.
A main outcome of the project was the design of the Logistics Credit Management Platform (LOCMAP), which manages the three types of technological and logistical services installed by the project in the historic centre of Lucca:
- Monitoring entrances and exits to and from the restricted traffic zone with radio-frequency identification antennas;
- Load/Unload parking lots with smart occupancy sensors; and
- Cargo-bike sharing system.
The LOCMAP has been operational in Lucca since September 2020, encouraging freight operators to adopt more sustainable approaches. It has led to a significant rise in the number of fully electric vehicles accessing the restricted traffic zone, increasing from 23 a day to 43, along with an around 40% increase in the number of vehicles classified as EURO5 and EURO6. Furthermore, the number of category EURO3 vehicles was significantly reduced. A survey of 53 transport operators also revealed that the load factor increased from below 40% of the baseline to around 50% at the end of the project. Moreover, the project demonstrated that LIFE ASPIRE measures led to a 10.4% reduction in the number of vans on the roads.
Specific environmental results included:
- A reduction in noxious gases and PM emissions compared to the business-as-usual scenario:
- NOx reduced by 1 159 kg per year from 4 182 kg/y
- CO reduced by 865 kg/y from 2 293 kg/y
- PM10 reduced by 266 kg/y from 447 kg/y
- PM2,5 reduced by 259 kg/y from 398 kg/y
- An annual reduction CO2eq emissions of 154 tonnes from 1 029 t/y before the project.